Kurt Helin

Windi Grateron, Gustavo Ayon

Mexico beats Argentina, Canada has top seed in FIBA Americas

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Gustavo Ayon scored 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and Mexico overcame a 15-point deficit to hand Argentina its first loss of the Olympic qualifier, 95-83 on Wednesday night in the last game of the second round.

Ayon also grabbed 14 rebounds, while Jorge Gutierrez scored 23 points and Francisco Cruz added 21 for the Mexicans. They earned the No. 2 seed and will face Argentina again Friday night in the FIBA Americas semifinals.

Earlier, Canada beat the Dominican Republic 120-103 to finish first and will play Venezuela in the other semifinal.

The winners will get the two Americas’ berths into the 2016 Olympics. The losers will play in the 2016 FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament.

Mexico is trying to qualify for its first Olympics since Montreal in 1976.

Luis Scola scored 26 points and Andres Nocioni added 21 for Argentina.

Canada won its seventh straight game as Cory Joseph scored 17 points to lead a balanced attack.

Anthony Bennett and Nik Stauskas each scored 14 points for a Canadian team that features nine NBA players and is one of the favorites to earn one of the berths in Rio.

“We did the job in a tough day because we played an emotional game last night,” said Canada coach Jay Triano, whose team beat Mexico on Tuesday night. “The legs were tired and we needed to turn it around quickly against a team that plays unconventional basketball. I’m happy with the win and we have 48 hours to prepare for the big game.”

Canada is trying to qualify for its first Olympic games since Sydney in 2000.

Venezuela qualified for the semifinal round with a 75-62 victory over Panama.

John Cox scored 21 points and Heissler Guillent came off the bench to add 13 for the Venezuelans, who are trying to qualify for their first Olympics since Barcelona in 1992.

Venezuela was a surprise because it came to the tournament without three of its best players: Greivis Vasquez of the Milwaukee Bucks, Luis Bethelmy and Gregory Echenique.

“No one saw us as guests to the dance of the final four, but we are there and we earned it,” said Venezuela coach Nestor Garcia. “Everybody thinks that we are a team that’s one step below the other three and we are going to use that to our advantage because we have everything to win and nothing to lose.”

Also Wednesday, J.J. Barea scored 19 points, Renaldo Balkman added 17 and Puerto Rico got an 80-69 victory over Uruguay to finish fifth and clinch a spot in the 2016 FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament, to be played July 4-10.

“The first half was the best defensive effort that I have seen in a long time. I’m really proud with this group,” Puerto Rico coach Rick Pitino said. “We came in here limping, but we will play next summer with a healthy team and we will try to make it to Rio.”

Behind 25 from Danilo Gallinari, Italy beats Germany in EuroBasket OT instant classic

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How well is Italy playing at EuroBasket 2015? Andrea Bargnani looks like a good two-way player. You read that right.

Despite Bargnani’s 17 points, he was not the star of Italy’s dramatic overtime win Wednesday over Germany. That honor went to the Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari, who dropped 25 points on 11 shots — including keying the 10-point fourth-quarter comeback by the Italians, and he drilled the shot that sent the game to OT. Then he hit the shot in the extra period that put Italy up for good. You can see his highlights above, and also know he was getting to the line all game.

The win punches Italy’s ticket for the knockout round.

It leaves the Germans scrambling with Turkey and Spain for two spots in the next round.

That is not the fault of Hawks’ guard Dennis Schroder, who carved up the Italian defense all game to the tune of 29 points and seven assists.

Lisa Leslie would be open to coaching in NBA someday, says she could help Clippers “immediately”

The 2015 ESPYS - Red Carpet
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Becky Hammon broke through the barrier as an assistant coach with the Spurs last season (and then won Summer League as the Spurs coach).  This fall Nancy Lieberman will take to the sidelines as a Kings’ assistant coach under George Karl.

Is Lisa Leslie next?

The three-time WNBA MVP, 12-time All-WNBA Team, four-time gold medal winning, and brand new Hall of Famer — she is inducted this weekend — was a guest on Larry King Live (yes, that Larry King, he’s still around) and he asked her about coaching in the NBA. She tossed the ball into Doc Rivers’ court.

“I could coach. I haven’t had the desire to coach because I have little kids but I would never say never that’s definitely something I’m totally capable of doing in the NBA…..

“I definitely think that I have some knowledge of the game that would definitely help their (Clippers) postgame, post players, footwork, and how to defend offensively and defensively. For sure, I could help that team immediately.”

Blake Griffin‘s footwork is underrated — it’s good, and he plays to his strengths well. But DeAndre Jordan, Cole Aldrich, and Josh Smith? If they were smart enough to listen Leslie knows what she is talking about (if you’ve ever been fortunate to talk the game a little with her, as I have, you’d know her knowledge shows through).

Leslie may not be at the point in her life where this works — being an NBA assistant coach is long, grueling hours. You better love watching and breaking down game film, eating fast food, then working with players in the gym on their weaknesses. And travel, you better be okay with ridiculous travel.

If it’s not Leslie, another woman is going to walk through that door soon. Then another. And another. Until we don’t think twice about it.

Milwaukee leaders announce arena land sale to Bucks for $1

new Bucks arena
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee leaders plan to announce that a chunk of downtown land has been sold to the city’s NBA team for $1 as part of the drive to build the Bucks a new arena complex.

County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement Wednesday that the sale will transform a vacant space into a development that will create thousands of jobs and generate millions in revenue.

The land was appraised at $8.8 million, but Abele’s office says that doesn’t factor in $8.3 million worth of needed demolition and infrastructure work.

The announcement comes as city leaders consider whether to approve the final piece of a $500 million funding puzzle including public money.

Opponents say wealthy team owners shouldn’t receive public subsidies, arguing such funds would be better spent on education or police.

Derrick Favors has found a home in “chill” Utah

Utah Jazz v Sacramento Kings
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To put it kindly, plenty of NBA players do not have Utah at the top of their free agent destination list. It’s not glamorous; it’s not the city on the tour with the best nightlife. If you’re young and rich, a laid back, outdoorsy, conservative town is not going to be your first choice.

Derrick Favors was one of those guys when he was traded to Utah midway through his rookie season as part of the Deron Williams deal. But he’s come around. He was honest about his experience, speaking to Adi Joseph of The Sporting News.

“I didn’t expect to stay (long term), no,” Favors says, more than four years after the trade and two years after he signed a four-year contract extension with the Jazz. “Utah was so different, I was so new to it. I didn’t expect to stay.

“But as the years have gone on, I’ve grown to love it. I got used to it. I just started feeling comfortable,” he says. “I like how calm and chill it is in Utah. It’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing. The bad part is, maybe after a big game you want to go out and hang out or whatever, and there’s really not too many spots like that in Utah. Down (in Atlanta), you could go anywhere. Out in Utah, it’s chill, laid-back. There’s not a lot of rah-rah stuff going on. You can focus on your job, your career, whatever else you have going on.”

Not every player is cut out for being a member of the Jazz; it takes a certain, more mature personality. To be fair, not every player is cut out for being a member of the Lakers/Knicks/Heat — there are players that get overwhelmed and swallowed up in the off-the-court attractions in those cities and lose focus on their jobs.

The Jazz have traditionally been a smart and patient organization, finding the right players and working on chemistry. They have built a team on the rise — everyone’s favorite to jump up into the West playoffs this season. They have a strong front court with Favors and Rudy Gobert, a wing playmaker in Gordon Hayward, quality young shooters like Alec Burks and Rodney Hood, and an interesting mix at point guard with Trey Burke and the injured Dante Exum.

Winning cures a lot of ills in the NBA.

If the Jazz continue their upward trajectory, plenty of other players will come out of the woodwork and be willing to suit up in Utah.